Interactions between vasopressin and baroreflex control of the sympathetic nervous system

Eileen M. Hasser, Vernon S. Bishop, Meredith Hay

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83 Scopus citations


In addition to its effects at the renal tubules to influence water retention and at vascular smooth muscle to cause vasoconstriction, the hormone arginine vasopressin also appears to modulate cardiovascular reflex control of the sympathetic nervous system. Infusion or endogenous release of vasopressin results in enhanced baroreflex sympatho-inhibitory responses compared with other pressor agents. In addition, when changes in arterial pressure are imposed on an elevated background level of circulating vasopressin, due either to infusion or endogenous release, the arterial baroreflex response is shifted to lower pressures, and the maximum sympatho-excitation to a decrease in pressure is reduced. Evidence suggests that vasopressin may influence cardiovascular reflex function at multiple sites. Nevertheless, the primary site involved in the effects of circulating vasopressin on baroreflex function appears to be in the central nervous system, specifically in the area postrema. Lesion of the area postrema abolishes the ability of circulating vasopressin to modulate arterial baroreflex and cardiopulmonary reflex function and electrical or chemical stimulation of this circumventricular organ mimics the effects of vasopressin. In addition, vasopressin has been shown to influence the activity of area postrema neurons in vivo and in vitro. Although not all studies agree, the effects of the area postrema and vasopressin on cardiovascular reflex function appear to be dependent on afferent input from peripheral baroreceptors. Most evidence suggests that vasopressin exerts its effects on baroreflex function through a V1 vasopressin receptor mechanism. Systemic administration or microinjection into the area postrema of a specific V1 receptor antagonist abolishes the action of arginine vasopressin on arterial baroreflex and cardiopulmonary reflex control of the sympathetic nervous system. The ability of vasopressin and the area postrema to influence baroreflex function appears to be dependent on an α2-adrenoceptor mechanism at the level of the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). Blockade of α2-adrenoceptors in the NTS abolishes the effects of vasopressin and the area postrema on the sympathetic nervous system. Facilitation of NTS processing of baroreceptor afferent inputs by the area postrema could contribute to the enhanced sympatho-inhibition and shift of the baroreflex curve to lower pressures during elevations in circulating vasopressin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-108
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • adrenergic
  • area postrema
  • nucleus tractus solitarius

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology (medical)


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